UN-GO — The Working Title Job (LB-C3)

Same deal as before.

CHAPTER 3. Receding Tide.

STERANKO SECURITY FIRM.

It was an imposing sign, that was for sure.

“Fukashima-san will speak with you now,” Said a Secretary, who looked suspiciously similar to the one at the last place they were at.

Important lookalike is important.

“Thank you,” Shinjuurou said with a nod as he and Inga sat up from their chairs and headed to the door.

“Hello,” The man at the desk said as he typed at a calculator, “just take a seat, I’ll be with you in a moment…”

Shinjuurou and Inga did just that, and took the time to look around the room.

Unlike the dimly lit office of CEO Mitsuku Asahina, the office of Accountant Daigo Fukashima was brightly lit, and even higher up in terms of floor level.

The bookshelves all listed various popular titles from the last thirty years, some of which had even been web comics originally, only to be published in book format years later. Other shelves lacked books, and instead were filled with various nick-knacks and old fashioned photo frames featuring young children at various ages.

“Right, sorry about that,” Fukashima said, looking up from his work with a smile. “I had some last minute numbers to run after an email just came in. I’m Fukashima, Daigo, Steranko’s Japanese branch’s Chief Accountant.”

“It’s fine,” Shinjuurou said. “I’m Detective Yuki, Shinjuurou, this is my assistant, Inga. We’re here about the murder of Otonoshi, Kenta.”

“Ah, yes, the Numerical Security Advancements Firm CEO who was murdered last night,” Fukashima sighed and took off his accounting glasses to rub at his nose. “Such a shame. He had seemed so lively last time we talked.”

“You two were friends?” Inga asked.

“You could say that,” Fukashima shrugged. “We were about as close as friends could be given our business arrangements. He would come to me for requests to upgrade his house’s security, I would run the numbers through to see if we could squeeze such a project into our schedule, and if so, I’d approve the project.”

“Your boss didn’t have a problem with that?” Shinjuurou asked.

“Goodness no!” Fukashima chuckled slightly, “Kenta was the man who helped make the Steranko 5.0 System and beyond what they were after the war. I dare say that we might never have made it to next month’s 8.8 release without his invaluable work. What’s a few house renovation projects in contrast to the world’s top notch security system?”

“Did he have any work on his house done recently?” Shinjuurou asked.

“He was always having work done but…” Fukashima put his glasses back on and went to his keyboard, tapping a few keys to bring up a folder. “Around the time that JJ System’s Chairman was in the hospital, Kenta did make an usual request.”

“What kind of request?” Inga asked.

“To beta test our new nail-head cameras in his house, and to remove the old bulky security cameras,” Fukashima said with a frown. “We said, ‘sure, why not’, but after last night’s…ahhem…’show’, well…You can see why the company has decided to put the nail-camera development on hold for the time being.”

“Makes sense to me,” Inga agreed.

All important info here- where Mitsuku was lying, Daigo is telling the truth.

“Otonoshi-san was working on P Versus NP,” Shinjuurou asked next, “was any of that a piece of the Steranko System?”

“P Versus NP you say…?” Fukashima paled slightly, “Well, that is an interesting question. Kenta requested that we try a new software upgrade for his house cameras about…a week ago? But he ordered us to specifically not look into the code itself. Said that he was beta testing something on his own time… In light of how easily the secure data feed to our servers was hijacked and broadcast onto the web, I think it’s safe to say that Kenta finished P Versus NP, alright. That was probably why Kenta was so happy when I talked to him last.”

“What did he say?” Shinjuurou asked.

“Not much, I’m afraid,” Fukashima said with a shrug. “Just that ‘if this works, the world will be a better place’. I thought he was just being dramatic, but…then he also said that if he was right, ‘Then the Light of the Rising Sun will shine down upon us all’ and I don’t think I need to tell you how ominous those words are after last night’s…” he spun his hand around. “You know.”

“So you think Kenta was a part of this Rising Sun group?” Inga asked.

“I think he was in contact with them,” Fukashima shrugged, “but he might have just been being used by them, rather than intentionally working with them. You know how some of these shady deals go, sometimes.”

In the end, this is the truth that ended up being settled on for poor Kenta.

“Yeah,” Shinjuurou nodded.

“At any rate,” Fukashima said, “Kenta told me that despite all of that, he was just happy that it would all ‘soon be over,’ and that the ‘damage’ he’d felt ‘from the war would finally be able to heal’. He even said he was thinking of starting a family one day,” He glanced over at a photograph of the children, “I feel sorry that he never got a chance to reach that place.”

“You have kids?” Inga asked.

“Yes, two boys,” Fukashima said as he stood up to go pick up the photo frame he’d been staring at. “They’ll be five and thirteen in a few months. I’m just grateful that they were engrossed with a movie last night when the…the Web was taken over. They didn’t need to see that sort of thing. They’re too young for that.” He turned to Shinjuurou and Inga, and met their eyes in turn with his. “Please, if there’s anything you need to help stop this, don’t hesitate to call my personal number.”

“We will,” Shinjuurou nodded.

“Let me go grab a business card,” Fukashima said as he moved over to the desk, “it’s got my number on it.”

Daigo’s a good man- not involved in any of this Rising Sun mess personally.

As they stepped outside, Shinjuurou stopped by the Secretary.

“Excuse me,” He said, “do you happen to have a sister who works at the Numerical Security Advancements Firm by any chance?”

“Yes, I do!” The woman smiled briefly, “We both went to work at the same temp agency, ended up getting the same job types a few months apart from each other! I’ve been working here for five months, she’s been working there for two! Funny how that works out, isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Shinjuurou nodded, “that is pretty funny.”

As I said be—OH COME ON. “She’s been working there for ONE” month. Not Two.

Dang it.

They stepped into the elevator, already holding a few passengers in it.

A security guard and a woman in a business suit.

Shinjuurou and Inga paid little attention to them, up until the point the Security Guard’s radio beeped.

“Attention Guards, we’ve got the basket case from this morning trying to vandalize the vending machine again. Could someone come down to the lobby and throw her out?”

The Guard in the Elevator answered, “I’m on my way down as we speak. I’ll take care of the little brat.”

bold italics….not a wise choice on my part.

METRO CITY PUBLIC LIBRARY

It was rare that Rie found a Library to be disturbing, but the simple fact that The Rising Sun seemed to be able to do anything with P Versus NP was making her shiver.

“This online record’s been wiped clean,” The Librarian said with a scowl, “I don’t know how that happened, but someone’s bulk erased every trace of data on the historical yearbooks we collected.”

“It’s fine,” Rie said with an apologetic smile, “I’ll just have to find a hard copy.”

“Yeah, well,” The librarian ran a hand through his hair, “you’re going to have a doozy of a time finding people’s names in a hard copy. That’s why we digitized it all. Man, I really pity the fool who’s gotta go back and rewrite all of that by hand…” he sighed, “Knowing my luck it’ll probably end up being me.”

“Don’t worry,” Rie said as she patted him on the shoulder, “I’m sure it’ll all work out eventually.”

“Yeah, that’s if I don’t get fired first.”

Crackers!

Rie returned to the Computer array where she’d left Kazamori.

“Any luck?”

“Unfortunately no.” Kazamori said as she scrolled through the search results before her. “It appears that all online references to Otonoshi, Kenta’s schooling records have been erased, and are being actively censored.”

“Censored?” Rie frowned.

“I simultaneously posted a test question in the anonymous comments on multiple articles on Otonoshi, Kenta that recapped his life from birth to his recent death. I inquired why they made no mention of his schooling, and not moments after posting, my comment had been scrambled into a generic troll comment, retaining only it’s original format for approximately three seconds before each page automatically refreshed.”

“Geeze,” Rie’s frown deepened, “that’s almost like the kind of scary speed my dad has on these things. Who has the resources to do something like that?”

“A single human could achieve this type of event within thirty seconds, but never simultaneously to the same second. A basic computer AI could pull something like that off at about five seconds if they were monitoring one site alone, and multiple AI’s could pull off the synchronized deletions,” Kazamori said. “An R.A.I., if any more existed at this point of time, could monitor multiple websites at once to pull off the speed at which I observed.” She turned her head over her shoulder towards Rie, “But those are only if they are employed by those companies and had access to the website’s security codes. With an advanced P Versus NP algorithm…? I cannot be certain what could cause this.”

Kazamori’s estimates here are pulled completely off of the top of her/my head without doing any real math work.

“We’ll have to go check the school itself for a physical yearbook copy then,” Rie said.

“Understood,” Kazamori said before logging out of the computer and standing up.

As they walked outside, Rie’s cellphone rang.

“Hello?” She answered.

“Hey, it’s me,” Shinjuurou’s voice came through over the muffled sounds of screaming and fighting on the other end. “You’re never going to guess who I just ran into.”

“Who?” Rie asked.

Shinjuurou smirked as he observed the scene before him.

“Just the niece of Kenta-san, causing a scene in Steranko Security’s lobby.”

“I SAID!” The brilliantly blood-red haired girl shouted as the Guards tried, and failed, to restrain her as she kicked at the Vending Machine. “LET ME THROUGH!”

It cracked heavily, and Inga winced at the sound as the girl took a deep breath.

I KNOW YOU KILLED MY UNCLE KENTA, YOU DAMN MACHINE!”

Unwise choice of bold italics indeed…. That said- this whole scene is just absurd. Tiny girl escaping big guards to punch up a vending machine?

Rie raised an eyebrow, unaware of just what to make of that remark other than, “She sounds a little unhinged to me.”

“Yeah, but she might know something,” Shinjuurou said. “Inga and I are going to try approaching her, see if we can get her to calm down somewhat.”

“Well, good luck with that,” Rie said, “try not to get killed.”

“We’ll try,” Shinjuurou said. “So how did the library search go?”

“Uneventful,” Rie said, “I’ll tell you more about it when we get back to your place, but for now we’re going to go to the school itself to see if we can get a yearbook from them. If not, we’ll have to ask Mitsuku if he has one…”

“Or if things work out on our end,” Shinjuurou offered an alternative, “we might just be able to ask the niece here instead.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Rie smiled.

“Be careful,” Shinjuurou said, “ok?”

“Will do,” Rie nodded.

And with that, she hung up and whistled for a Taxi.

Aw, look, they really do care about each other! :33

Not surprisingly, the search for the school turned out to be a dead end. The High School that Kenta Otonoshi had gone to was utterly gone. Like so many other buildings, it had been destroyed in the war.

Unlike other buildings, however…

This High school just quite simply didn’t exist.

Rie and Kazamori stared at the fenced off, empty grass field before them, all around their surroundings were ruined buildings…But the square footage of where a school should be…?

Unlike the other buildings ruined in the war, this high school had been torn down, and relatively recently at that.

The grass was too neatly maintained- and was too thickly green to have been there during the war.

“Someone planted this grass over where the building should be…” Rie frowned. “Who the hell does something like this?”

The Plot thickens!!

Meanwhile, in a fast food restaurant, Shinjuurou and Inga stared at the red haired girl across the table from them.

“So…you’re not cops?” She asked, blinking equally red eyes at them.

“We’re detectives, technically,” Shinjuurou said. “I’m guessing you’re Kenta’s niece?”

“Yes,” she nodded, “I am. My name is…Alicia. Just call me Alicia for now.”

Alicia’s name comes from Alicia Rue- a character from SAO and that previously mentioned Halkegenia Online….

“Alright then, Alicia,” Shinjuurou said, “what was up with attacking the vending machine like that?”

“It’s…” Alicia paused. “Complicated.”

“We’ve got time,” Inga said. “Explain.”

“I’d rather not do it here,” She glanced around at all the customers. “You never know who might be listening.”

“…Alright then…” Shinjuurou frowned. “What are you willing to talk about then? Your Uncle Kenta then?”

“Um…” Alicia tapped a finger to her chin for a moment. “Sure, I guess.”

“How well did you know him?” Inga asked.

“Well enough to feel like someone ran me over with a car when I found out he was dead,” Alicia said.

“Interesting way of putting it,” Shinjuurou noted.

“That’s…putting it accurately, actually.” Alicia scratched at her nose. “He had me working with him on a project, a formula called-”

“P Versus NP,” Shinjuurou and Inga said simultaneously.

“Ah…So you’ve heard of it?” Alicia asked.

“That’s putting it accurately,” Shinjuurou quoted.

In my head, however, Alicia’s design comes from a short haired version of this girl with matching red eyes, instead of yellow.

“Well, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised given that you’ve been investigating it…” Alicia began, “but…what do you know of what we were working on?”

“We suspect that…ah…He was working on solving it for the Rising Sun, and got killed when he completed it,” Inga said under a whisper.

“We also think that his classmates from high school might have been involved in this,” Shinjuurou added. “Why were you working on it with him?”

“I was …ah…Testing my uncle’s math to make sure it was sound,” Alicia said with an avoiding glance, “I’d rather not say more than that right now though.”

“You know,” Shinjuurou said, “at this rate we might as well head back to my house to meet up with Rie and Kazamori. That way we can talk privately.”

“That might be preferable,” Alicia said.

And so the plot moves back to Shinjuurou’s apartment.

The Phone rang. And Rang…And then finally…

“This is Asahina, Mitsuku. How can I help you?”

“Hi, this is Kaishou, Rie calling,” Rie said.

“Oh, hello miss Kaishou. What can I do for you?” Mitsuku sounded unsure.

“I was wondering if you had a Class Yearbook from your high school days?” Rie asked. “We think it might help with the investigation.”

“Hm…Well…I think I might still have it…Wait. No. Actually, now that I think about it, I think I threw it out about a year ago. Sorry.”

“No, that’s fine,” Rie shook her head, “Thank you for your time.” And with that, she hung up.

Just in time for it to ring with the sound of an incoming text.

“Rie- Inga and I are heading back to my place. Meet us there if you’ve got something. Walls are Listening. “ And that was all Shinjuurou said on the matter.

“…Walls are Listening?” Rie raised an eyebrow. “What does that mean?” She texted back that question.

Moments later, a reply came in. “K’s Niece won’t let us talk in public. “

“…Ah,” Rie nodded in understanding, and texted back, “We’re on our way.”

Sort of.

We actually get there in the next scene.

This scene, however, is to prove that Asahina isn’t being as helpful as he said he’d be.

One of the benefits of having a home in the bombed parts of the city, Rie observed, was that Shinjuurou would be able to get out into the ruined parts of the city and hide quickly should the need arise.

The reason this thought came up was a simple one as Kazamori opened the door to the apartment.

The Toaster had leaped at them with a high pitched yowl more befitting of a cat.

You read that sentence over a few times, didn’t you?

For a single moment, Kazamori and Rie stared at the hissing appliance that had landed between them and observed it. It was quite clearly the two slotted toaster, however having undergone some bizarre transformation.

For one thing- it’s electrical plug and cord was whipping about like a tail, and the handle on the front had morphed out into a neck and seemed to have bulged out impossibly into a mockery of a cat’s head, complete with mouth.

And the legs? The four short stubby plastic stoppers had mutated out into working legs.

Yes, it appeared that the apartment’s toaster had come to life, and furthermore, had transformed into the very creature it was now acting like.

Quite the bizarre image I paint with words, is it not?

“A-A-” Kazamori’s eyes went wide with fear as a familiar panic started to overcome her, “ATTACK OF THE APPLIANCES!” She screamed and then turned tail to run away- towards the stairwell on the opposite side of the building.

Rie could only watch with a bemused, confused, and horrified expression as the Cat-Toaster began springing after her, launching its payload of toast from the two slots after the poor girl.

Kazamori *FREAKS OUT.*

You’d think she’d keep a calmer head….but this is a case of OOC is Serious Business.

And who wouldn’t freak out when a toaster is SHOOTING TOAST AT YOU!?

“AAAHH!” Kazamori screamed as the toast sailed over her head- unfortunately tripping on her own two feet and falling to the ground, allowing the Cat-Toaster to get closer and closer with it’s progressively larger leaps before-

SLAM!

-A concerned neighbor, who Rie never even expected to be living in this building threw open his door right in the rogue machine’s path- stopping it just shy of it’s downward arc onto Kazamori.

“What the hell is going on out here!?” The neighbor shouted.

“C-Ca-T-t-TOASTER!” Kazamori could only point at the door and stutter almost incoherently.

The neighbor stepped outside and pulled his door closed a bit to look at what hit it…

“What in the world…?”

The poor Cat Toaster was lying on the ground, limbs spazamming at weird angles as its tail let off sparks of electricity.

Poor thing.

It was with a hesitant manner that Rie entered the apartment, brandishing a borrowed frying pan from the neighbor as she searched each room for signs of any renegade appliances.

It was quite obvious, in retrospect due to the Phone and Disk Players earlier freak out, that the light blast from that morning had caused some sort of mechanical-organic matter conversion among the house’s appliances.

Kazamori was the prime example of it, being an RAI now made fully human, but to think that such a transformation could have affected everything else in the apartment…? Rie realized rather belatedly that they should have done more investigating of the apartment before heading out. There was no telling what was going wrong.

The poor phone definitely was dead, so that was one less concern to worry about, but more worryingly, the Disk Player was missing. It had probably come to life like the toaster had, but what transformation it had undergone was unknown.

Now we get into the ramifications of Kazamori and Inga letting off a Matter Transmutation wave.

Rie rounded the corner into the kitchen and swung her frying pan down as she entered with a cry of “HAAAH!”

The Refrigerator mooed at her in return.

Rie stared at it in confusion and repeated, in a more confused tone, “haaah?” ‘Great, now what do I tell Shinjuurou? His fridge is a cow now? …Actually, I wonder if the water dispenser gives milk now…?’ She quickly shook her head to remove the thought, and began searching the kitchen for other changes.

The Fridge MOOS.

The FRIDGE. Became. A COW.

How the hell would someone react to that other than how Rie reacts!?

I just…

HOW.

There was the Microwave, perched up on the shelf over the oven, flapping two wings like a bird. And the oven…? Thankfully, that one seemed unchanged by the transformations due to being a gas powered device rather than an electronic one.

Nothing else in the kitchen seemed to be different, though, Rie noted with relief. So with that, she turned around and prepared to exit the kitchen.

It was then that she saw the roaring bristle heads of the vacuum cleaner’s main floor attachment rearing up as if to strike on its own. Rie’s eyes widened and she quickly held up the frying pan to block as the rampaging vacuum’s engine roared to life with a might hiss as it shot forward like a mighty python.

We’ve all daydreamed as kids of having the Vacuum Cleaner being a Snake in disguise.

AND. IT. IS. *REAL.*

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!”

KLANG!

Kazamori flinched slightly as she heard the mighty reverberating echo of steel against plastic from outside the apartment.

She hated the fact that she’d frozen up like that. She never would have paniced at the sight of a moving Toaster before when she had used to be an R.A.I., and in fact, she hadn’t even been a she to begin with. It was strange how the mind was the plaything of the body at times, and Kazamori wasn’t sure how to handle that sudden change.

Now we get into Kazamori’s changes.

Buncha gorram typos all over da place.

R.A.I.’s had been made with the intent to replicate human thought almost flawlessly, but apparently replacing circuits and controlled motions with actual blood and muscles proved that R.A.I.’s weren’t as ‘flawless’ as her Father had thought.

If that man hadn’t been arrested, and Kazamori’s previous identity, the President of the Sasa Company, hadn’t been written off as deceased, she would have considered confronting him on it and showing that he hadn’t been as thorough in his programming as he’d thought he’d been.

Still, from a scientific standpoint, the phenomenon that had resulted from the previous night’s experiment on Inga’s powers had created some rather interesting after effects.

The Cat-Toaster, for example.

Oh what the hell WordPress? Why aren’t you letting me type anything in the Visual Tab? Why do I have to go into the RAW TEXT tab to be able to type anything?! Okay….there we go…a draft save fixed that…. 0_O; I don’t get it…

ANYWAYS.

Kazamori glanced across the hallway to where the neighbor who had slammed the animated object with his front door was presently keeping a solid eye on the Cat-Toaster that had since calmed down from it’s spazamming, and now seemed more confused than anything as to what was happening.

Certainly, it wasn’t as aggressive as it had been before.

And then that brought Kazamori’s thoughts over to her own panic attacks.

The first had been that morning, right after what Shinjuurou and Rie had described as “A wave of light.” Kazamori had felt her body change in an instant. While it was a feeling similar to when she transported herself from the Toy Doll to her Female Human body, there had been a disturbing addition- The sudden loss of input from the outside world.

As an R.A.I., wire-less-ly transferring from one body to another always required a connection to the global internet. Indeed, for all of Kazamori’s life, she’d had that omnipresent connection to the world wide web itching at the back of her head. If she ever needed to look up a fact or a website, she could ‘zone out’ and upload herself onto the Internet for a brief search. That power had even allowed her to locate Shinjuurou when he had been brainwashed by Bettenou into believing he was a camera operator. It could even be said that as an R.A.I., a piece of her very ‘soul’ was always inside the vast data network of the world.

But then, in an instant, that constant itching had been pulled away.

It had felt like a piece of herself had just suddenly ceased to exist.

Poor Kazamori- R.A.I.’s are *stored* on a cloud, with only the ‘interface’ being downloaded onto a local device….

She’s basically been pulled whole-cloth from the internet into a single, tiny body.

That had been the leading cause of the resulting panic, Kazamori decided, to the point that she’d barely even noticed the other thing that had resulted from the change.

She no-longer could control her body in terms of mechanical motions. Long gone were the motions of “Vocalize Words” and “Move Arm By X, Y, Z, Degrees.” As an R.A.I., she was not meant to think in these terms explicitly, or even consciously, but at times she had found that when she needed to do something with a delicate precision, such thoughts were a way to distance herself from her body and use it more as a tool to pull off those required, precise motions.

Kazamori frowned as another loud sound came from inside the apartment, along with Rie’s triumphant shout of: “AND THAT’S FOR TRYING TO EAT MY JACKET!”, and she had to wonder, what exactly were these formerly non-sentient machines even thinking as they acted out the first acts of their newly given life?

Perhaps they too were experiencing such panic attacks, and needed to find a way to adjust to the conflicting set of…Memories?

Makes you feel bad for the Vacuum that Rie’s beating up, doesn’t it?

The Cat-Toaster seemed to be happy to act as a simple domesticated house cat for the moment, purring and mewling against the confused neighbor’s leg.

“Er…So…” He said, “what exactly is this thing?”

“I do believe that it is a cat,” Kazamori said simply.

“Yeah, I got that, but…” The man looked at the confusing creature in confusion, “why is it a toaster!?”

“…Why is what a toaster?” Said a girl with red hair as she approached, at the wrong angle to see the cat-toaster.

Kazamori nearly did a double take as Inga and Shinjuurou came walking up just a second later.

“That’s what I’d like to know,” Shinjuurou frowned, “and why are you waiting outside for?”

Kazamori wasn’t sure how to process that inquiry.

Why *was* she waiting outside?

That’s a good question, isn’t it?

The answer, she suspected, lay in the second panic attack. The sight of a Toaster come to life? It vaguely reminded her of the movie that she and Inga had been watching before they’d lost interest and-

A flush came up onto her cheeks, and before she could even fight to suppress it, Inga noticed the Toaster Cat a whole split-second after Shinjuurou had voiced his question.

“Oh wow! It’s our toaster!”

“Wait what?” Shinjuurou glanced down at the ground as Inga knelled down to meet the Cat-Toaster at eye level.

“That would be why we’re outside,” The neighbor said, “the damn thing tried to attack that young girl there, and she freaked out. If I hadn’t heard her and thrown my door open when I did, who knows what this thing would’ve done.”

“It seems really calm now,” Shinjuurou observed as Inga picked the Toaster-Cat up and held it in his arms with a grin on his face.

“I think it was the knock on the head that did it,” The neighbor pointed at his door- which had a sizable dent on the exterior side. “I dunno what the hell happened, but I’ve never seen anything put a dent into metal like that and walk away.”

“Can we keep it, Shinjuurou?” Inga asked as he scratched at one of the Toaster-Cat’s ‘ears’.

“Well it is our toaster,” Shinjuurou said. “It’s not like we’re giving it up or anything.”

Always a fair point.

And then Rie came out of the apartment door, holding a twisted and battered frying pan in hand, clothes and hair disheveled, and a wide grin with a laugh on her face. “Oh hey, Shinjuurou! Your Fridge is a milk giving cow now, by the way!” She walked over to the neighbor and handed him back the frying pan. “Thanks for letting me borrow this, Yushima-san!”

The man’s eyes went wide at the present state of his frying pan, and he groaned, “My wife is gonna kill me for this.”

“Nah!” Rie said with a grin, “Tell her it went to a good cause!” She then frowned slightly as she turned to Shinjuurou and said, “Also, I think I’m going to have to buy you a new vacuum cleaner.”

“…Why do I get the feeling that I’ve just missed some important case development?” Shinjuurou asked.

Because you have…except that the case in question isn’t in this story. It’s in the next one (If I ever get around to writing it).

“My name is Ruecia Alicia Ilucia Otonoshi, but you can continue to call me Alicia,” Alicia introduced herself. “Kenta Otonoshi is my uncle on my father’s side.”

“So what was with the vending machine?” Inga asked, “I’m really curious to know!”

“That would be quite simple,” Alicia said with a smile, “that vending machine shorted me ten dollars the first time I used it, and we’ve been arguing about whom owes whom what for the last three months.”

“…Excuse me?” Rie asked. “How can you be arguing with a vending machine?”

“The answer lies with the fact that I am not One hundred percent human,” Alicia said simply- coldly- flatly- and lifted up her shirt to reveal that a large portion of the skin over her chest and stomach was missing.

“You’re an R.A.I.,” Kazamori said upon recognizing the metal chassis that her own body had been made out of a day earlier.

Girl looks like she got into a fight with a lawnmower and lost.

“Technically, I’m a living human whose brain scan was transplanted into an R.A.I. chassis,” Alicia said as she lowered her shirt down. “My father and I were in a car accident shortly after the R.A.I.’s initial run of popularity began, around seven years ago. Where some saw nothing but sex toys or military weapons, my uncle saw a way to save lives.”

“So that’s why the guards had a hard time holding you back,” Shinjuurou deduced. “Your strength went well beyond theirs.”

Now THIS is an interesting thing about the R.A.I. chassis I thought of.

They could have been used for Medical purposes if Brain-scan technology was at a sufficient level!

Think about it- robot bodies that are able to replicate most human body functions with the added benefit of super strength and wireless internet connections!

The entire R.A.I. plot could have worked out entirely differently had Kazamori’s father published the R.A.I. bodies *first* as Medical devices, with the R.A.I. program itself being a ‘secondary’ thing to the bodies.┬áKenta’s initial scan test was with a prototype device that could have been reasonably improved had things gone differently, and so while the R.A.I. *program* could have been ‘legally’ banned- the robot bodies would force themselves to remain on the market as medical devices and any person ‘scanned’ into an R.A.I. body would be practically indistinguishable from an actual R.A.I. program, making hunting down actual R.A.I. programs and ‘deleting’ them a VERY dangerous thing to do, as *ONE* false step, and you might have accidentally deleted a *LIVING HUMAN BEING.*

Think about that for a moment.

The entire story would have played out differently had that happened!

“Indeed,” Alicia nodded, even smiling at the toaster cat as it came to curl up on her lap despite the tone the conversation had taken. “When Uncle Kenta saw that I shared the same initials as the R.A.I. system, he thought it a sign, and bought several chassis to customize them in such a way to replicate my original body at various stages of my future growth, so that I might be able to use them to continue to grow up and continue my life. My father had died instantly in the crash, and so my mother, grief stricken, wanted to find a way to keep me alive, even if my organic body died entirely. To make a long story short, the brain scan finished off my organic body, but allowed me to survive as an R.A.I., although it was in secret.”

“So when the R.A.I.’s went under public scrutiny, your family kept quiet about the potential medical uses?” Rie asked.

“My mother was afraid that the Government would take me away, confiscated like the other R.A.I.’s.” Alicia sighed, “I was kept out of the public light in order that I could have a normal life. But…My mother died around the time the war ended but before Uncle Kenta could return and perform a brain scan on her like he had done for me. It was a genetic disease that I too would have died from eventually had I not been saved by Uncle Kenta…But my uncle…He was devastated by her death, and he grew disillusioned with the world, continually blaming himself for not being able to help her. He stopped seeing me less as a person and more as a tool.”

Poor guy.

“So when you said earlier that Kenta had you checking his math on P Versus NP,” Shinjuurou said, “that was because you have a computer processor for a brain, right?”

“I was his bench test for all P Versus NP codes,” Alicia explained. “If I could use the codes while…distanced from my body, using it as I would a computer instead of as my body, then his coding worked and he could have a chance to put all of this behind him.”

“Did it work?” Inga asked.

“Not that I was ever told, but given what I can find online that was recorded of last night…” Alicia trailed off, and changed subjects. “Uncle Kenta gained a…clarity about him the last few weeks. He stopped treating me as a tool and more like his niece. He said that he was close to finishing P Versus NP and that once he was done with that, we could become a family again. He stopped having me test the Programs and… We even took a picture last Sunday…” She smiled slightly as synthetic tears formed from her eyes, though the emotions felt were genuine, “I think he must have known what was coming, somehow. He uploaded the picture straight to my hard drive. And…I…” She sniffed, and then hurriedly wiped the tears away. “Sorry, I try not to do that as I am, broken wiring in my chest. I haven’t had a chance to repair myself after last night, and I don’t want to short circuit anything with the tears.”

But he came around, in the end.

“Were you there when your Uncle was killed?” Rie asked.

“Yes, I believe,” Alicia nodded. “I was cooking him dinner when I heard him make a call to someone. A few minutes later, there was a crash from outside. Kenta thought that maybe one of our neighbors had come home drunk again, so I went out to investigate, but then the next thing I knew, I’d been hit by this dark blue van, and my chassis went into a reboot cycle.”

Impact sent her system into a blue screen.

“So why did you think someone at Steranko killed your Uncle?” Shinjuurou asked.

“When I woke up,” Alicia explained, “I was in a dumpster just across the street from the Steranko office, around midnight. I’d gone in there repeatedly since that time to try to ask the Vending Machine what happened…But he was being especially stubborn and kept telling me off in a way that made me sure that he knew something and was trying to keep me away. Even called security on me for kicking him even though I hadn’t gone anywhere near him.” She glanced down at the Toaster Cat, “I know it’s hard to think of it this way, but creatures such as this cat…most technological devices of the modern age have some semblance of an A.I. on them, cheap imitations of R.A.I.’s, but it’s cheaper to mass produce them and use them for various different machines rather than going to the trouble of writing new code for a things like microwaves and toasters. It’s…It’s also why the completed P Versus NP is the most dangerous tool of all.”

Why is the Vending Machine doing this? Having seen the whole event unfold on the internet, it cared enough about her to ‘distract’ her by being a total jerk.

She found out anyways, but…after all the PvNP stuff had pulled itself off the internet.

“All those mass produced A.I.’s use the same code, don’t they?” Rie asked. “It makes hacking into the code base easier than it should be. Like what you said earlier, Kazamori,” Rie lookd to the girl. “A bunch of simple A.I.’s with modified tools.”

“Why create one program to do all of that when you can just ask the existing programs to do your work for you,” Kazamori said with a slight nod. “That would explain the speed. It was synchronized due to the programs acting independently…but that still doesn’t explain the speed at which it happened.”

“It could be that this new program speeds the A.I.’s up, right?” Inga asked.

“And it boosts their intelligence as well,” Alicia said. “I think that’s why my uncle stopped including me in the tests. He didn’t want to risk harming me with his new programming, since I wasn’t born as an AI.” She picked up the Toaster Cat from her lap and held it out in front of her, and met it’s virtual eyes with her own virtual ones despite not having it’s head pointed at her. “This little one is but a simple one, unaffected by the wireless P Versus NP distribution.” She put the cat back on her lap and pointed at the dead vacuum cleaner on the floor. “That one, though dead, I can tell that it was not modified by the program either. Though how it, and this little one became animate, I cannot say. That should be beyond the power and reach of any computer program.”

‘Boosts their intelligence as well,’ such as the vending machine.

Inga laughed nervously, “Yeah…that’s kind of weird…isn’t it…?”

“Anyways,” Rie coughed politely. “I have a question for you, Alicia-san. More of a request actually…”

“Sure,” The red haired girl nodded. “Ask away.”

“Did your Uncle upload a copy of his High school yearbook into your memory by any chance?”

“Um…Yes, he did, actually. I thought it quite odd,” Alicia said with a confused frown. “He password locked it, however, and I cannot access it personally.”

“Do you think you could copy it to a computer or a flash drive for us?” Rie asked.

“…Possibly. Why do you ask?” Alicia asked.

Now why would he do that?

“We think it might contain a lead on who Kenta was working with, and who might have killed him for his P Versus NP work,” Shinjuurou answered.

“…That might very well be the case,” Alicia said as her eyes widened slightly. “That he planned for a betrayal might very well have been a possibility. He was always very cautious of these sorts of things, especially given my own history…”

“A lot of people just called him paranoid,” Inga remarked, “but I guess he was properly paranoid if it’s going to help us solve his own murder.”

“Do you have a clean computer somewhere that I can borrow?” Alicia asked.

“I’ll go check,” Shinjuurou said, and got up.

Answer is no.

And so several hours would pass as they discovered the computers in the household had also been affected by the transmutation wave; meaning that a new laptop needed to be purchased, set up, and configured without a wireless connection so that they could copy the yearbook file onto the computer and password break it.

And they finally did by using one of the items listed on that stolen sheet of paper- “154NN4 K.”

“Isanna K.”

“Alright!” Rie said with a roll of her neck and a glance at the clock- 5:05 P.M. The sun would be setting soon. “Let’s see what we’ve got here!”

“Looks like the usual suspects, school jock, cheerleaders,” Shinjuurou listed the classmates off as Rie scrolled down the page, “Kenta and his friends sound pretty computer-club-ish, so they should be in that section of it of anything.”

“Ah, there’s Asahina,” Inga pointed out a smiling face, “wow! Who would’ve guessed he was double timing on the chess and the soccer teams?”

“Wait…” Shinjuurou pointed at a spot on a page on the screen. “Isn’t that…?”

Who?! Who is it!?

Aranea yawned as she watched the green text scroll by on the screen before her.

Password breaking the dropbox folder was going to take some time, and had done so from the get go.

With a stretch and a pop, Aranea relaxed her shoulders into Kenta’s leather chair- primarily made for long sessions of computer work like this.

And then there was a knock at the office door- and a creak as it opened.

“Huh?” Aranea looked up, smiling slightly, “Oh, hello again.”

Oh. It’s just her.

“Kanzaki, Aria?”

Yes. Kanzaki, Aria.

“AKA Serket, Aranea.” Shinjuurou narrowed his eyes, “She was a part of Kenta’s P Versus NP group along with Asahina.”

“But she’s not the girl from the one photo I saw in Asahina’s office,” Inga said, and pointed to a name a few rows down. “She was though!”

“What the hell?” Rie asked in surprise, “How come she didn’t tell us that she knew Kenta?”

“I don’t know,” Shinjuurou frowned as he pulled out his cellphone and selected a number off of contacts, “but I’ve got a bad feeling about this…”

“This is Mayoi Katawase, Police Chief, how can I help you?”

“Where’s Aranea-san?” Shinjuurou asked suddenly.

“Huh, Yuuki-san?” Katawase frowned. “She’s at Kenta’s office breaking into the drop box. Why?”

“Get her out of there NOW.”

What’s going on?

“Excuse me?” Aranea said with a concerned frown, “I think you must have me mistaken with someone else. My name’s Aranea, not Aria.”

“No mistake,” Mitsuku Asahina said as he entered the room, “I never forget faces, especially not pretty ones like yours.”

“Now look here, I’m-” Aranea was cut off as a gun was raised from behind Mitsuku’s back and pointed at her with a click. “WOAH!” She raised her hands. “Okay! Okay!”

“Please,” the man smiled sadly, “I know I may look different from what you may remember, but you do know me, Aria-chan.”

Aranea’s eyes widened, “…Mitsuku?”

“Come now, Aria-chan, you can drop the act. You knew I worked here from the get go.” Mitsuku snarled slightly, “Kenta-san mentioned it to you. He told me that himself.”

“I haven’t talked to Kenta in-” Aranea stopped when the gun went off and a hole was added to the computer monitor.

“Stop Acting!” Mitsuku growled. “There’s nobody who can hear you! The cameras all have had their audio muted for this recording.”

“Well maybe I’m just method acting,” Aranea said with a frown, “you did just shoot the computer monitor, after all.”

Oh….what’s this?

“You always were one for theatrics, Aria,” Mitsuku motioned the gun upwards, “stand up, and back out of the chair, then unhook the computer tower.”

“Let me guess,” Aranea gulped, “we’re going for a walk?”

It was but twenty minutes later that Katawase and a small squad of officers entered the office to find the shot up computer monitor, and a lack of any computer nor computer hacker.

“Damn it,” Katawase swore, and brought up her phone to dial a number. “Yo, Detective. We’re too late. She’s gone, and so is the computer.”

Betrayal?

 

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